The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato‘, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.
The technique has been widely popularized by dozens of apps and websites providing timers and instructions. Closely related to concepts such as timeboxing and iterative and incremental development used in software design; the method has been adopted in pair programming contexts.
There are six steps in the original technique:
- Decide on the task to be done.
- Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
- Work on the task.
- End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes) and then return to step 2; otherwise continue to step 6.
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
For the purposes of the technique, a pomodoro is the interval of time spent working.
A goal of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible; when interrupted during a pomodoro, either the other activity must be recorded and postponed (using the inform – negotiate – schedule – call back strategy) or the pomodoro must be abandoned.
After task completion in a pomodoro, any time remaining could be devoted to activities such as:
- Review and edit the work just completed.
- Review the activities from a learning point of view: What did I learn? What could I do better or differently?
- Review the list of upcoming tasks for the next planned Pomodoro time blocks, and start reflecting on or updating those tasks.
Specific cases should be handled with common sense: If you finish a task while the Pomodoro is still ticking, the following rule applies: If a Pomodoro begins, it has to ring. It’s a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity for overlearning, using the remaining portion of the Pomodoro to review or repeat what you’ve done, make small improvements, and note what you’ve learned until the Pomodoro rings.
The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing are fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase, tasks are prioritized by recording them in a “To Do Today” list. This enables users to estimate the effort tasks require. As pomodoros are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement.
The creator and his proponents encourage a low-tech approach, using a mechanical timer, paper, and pencil. The physical act of winding the timer confirms the user’s determination to start the task; ticking externalises desire to complete the task; ringing announces a break. Flow and focus become associated with these physical stimuli.
There are many variations on the Pomodoro Technique. These allow individuals to tailor the principles of the Pomodoro Technique to better suit their personal working style.
Some variations include:
- Work in 90 minute time periods. Rather than a 25 minute focus period, work in 90 minute blocks. This reflects a natural concentration cycle.
- Work in natural time periods. There may be natural time markers in one’s life: for example, the period between meetings, or the time until one’s kids or partner come home, or the time until the dishwasher finishes. Use these to define focus periods.
- Monitor periods of naturally high productivity, and from this data work out the best productivity system.
All of these approaches preserve the core Pomodoro Technique principle of working in specific time blocks, but they adjust the periods to better suit individual needs.
- Cirillo, Francesco. The Pomodoro Technique. http://www.pomodorotechnique.com. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- Cummings, Tucker. “The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right For You?”. Lifehack. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
- Cirillo, Francesco. “The Pomodoro Technique (The Pomodoro)” (PDF). Retrieved 30 December 2018.
- Olsen, Patricia R.; Remsik, Jim (19 September 2009). “For Writing Software, a Buddy System”. The New York Times.
- Cirillo, Francesco. “GET STARTED”. The Pomodoro Technique. Retrieved 2016-01-06.
4. WHEN THE POMODORO RINGS, PUT A CHECKMARK ON A PAPERClick the “how” link and see step 4. Presumably, the piece of paper can be one’s task list or similar. In any case, four check marks indicate a longer break (step 6).
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